My church, Riverview Baptist, is in the midst of a search for a new youth and young adult minister. We posted a position description on three prominent websites about three weeks ago, and have since been receiving several resumes from prospective candidates. Just this week we paired down the candidates list, removing those who, for whatever reason, would not move on to the interview phase. I had the somewhat unhappy task today of sending out rejection letters to these candidates.
I had never written a rejection letter before, so I did a little research on the internet to see what I was dealing with. I found some helpful advice, and even some templates, but all of these were written from a man-centered business philosophy. They were full of language like, "We appreciate your skill set, but..." or "You would make a great asset for a company, however..." And then the letter would go on to suggest that the person would be a great addition to another company, or that maybe they could apply for a different position in the same company, or maybe a similar position at a later date. The letters all concluded with apologetic language that made me feel sorry for the person being rejected.
I decided I didn't want to write a letter like that. Rather, I wanted to write a letter that I would want to read and be encouraged by if I were the one being rejected - one that communicates what needs to be communicated, but also points the reject (sorry for the term) toward the sovereignty of God in all things - even job applications. So here's what I came up with for the closing line of my rejection letter:
"We continue to pray that God will use you for great things in his kingdom as his plan for your life unfolds."
The Christian should be able to handle rejection, or the unexpected, or perhaps the undesirable way things turn out much better than the non-believer. As Christians, we believe that God sovereignly ordains all things, and that there are no accidents, and that everything that happens is God's will, and that his will is what is best for us - even when his will is somewhat difficult to accept.
There's a simple formula to remember when considering how we know what is God's will and what isn't. It's like this: if something happens, it was God's will; if something doesn't happen, it wasn't God's will. Seems simple, I know, and it is, but think about it: God always gets his way. God's will is always carried out. God doesn't ever end up frustrated because things didn't shake out the way he thought they would. No, everything that happens, happens precisely because it is exactly what God wanted to happen. So to those of us who have received a rejection letter in the past, and when we receive one in the future (because everyone does), take heart: it was not God's will that you have that job. How do I know that? Because if it was God's will, it would have happened.
(Note: there is a difference, however, between God's perfect will [what he righteously desires] and his permissive will [what he allows]. The two are not the same, and should not be confused, but an explanation of these differences is beyond the purview of this post. Either way, the point that Christians can celebrate - sometimes in tears, and sometimes in joy - whatever happens remains valid)
In this sense, the believer can celebrate rejection. Not that it feels particularly good to be rejected, but we can at least have some comfort in the fact that God is doing things, and for whatever reason, in his infinite wisdom, this wasn't one of them. We can also rejoice in the reality that God does what is always best for us, both now (in the rejection) and in the future, whatever it may hold.